Villordsutch reviews Doctor Who Series 10 Episode 10: The Eaters of the Light…
Directed by: Charles Palmer
Written by: Rona Munro
Doctor – It’s as if his bones have disintegrated.
Nardole – Ew! What could do that?
Doctor – Complete and total absence of any type of sunlight.
Nardole – Death by Scotland.
When Doctor Who was initially conceived, this science fiction series was also intended to walk down the route of an educational series too -an edutainment series as it would be buzzed today – strolling through numerous histories like Egypt or Ancient Greece and getting the TARDIS to change with it’s surroundings. However, budgets being slim it was easier to say the Chameleon Circuit was truly knackered and keep the now iconic TARDIS looking like a Police Box.
Even though Doctor Who never fully went down the educational path, it has on numerous occasions dipped its toe into historical events and this latest episode The Eaters of the Light by Rona Munro (Survival) takes us back to the disappearance of the Imperial Roman Armies Ninth Legion.
In the hills surrounding modern day Aberdeen we discover two children – a girl and boy – playing around ancient standing stones, with the elder boy not to happy that the younger girl is listening for music in the hills. As the boy drags the young girl away warning of ghosts, we see carved into one of the standing stones a very well-known police box.
Arriving again in Aberdeen, though this time in the 2nd Century AD, both the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Bill (Pearl Mackie) are in competition to see who is correct on the fate of the Ninth Legion – ill with an A* in said fate and the Doctor being part of the Roman Empire at some point in his two-thousand year life; separating they both set out to prove each other wrong. However, it quickly becomes apparent that wandering around Pict-occupied lands isn’t the best thing for a lonely modern-day woman and Bill is rapidly chased down another hole (see Empress of Mars) and finds a soldier of the Ninth Legion hiding.
Elsewhere the Doctor and Nardole (Matt Lucas) are currently wandering the hills when the Doctor spots a large Cairn; as they draw closer to it they too come across a soldier from the Ninth Legion, but this one isn’t so alive and is also missing all his bones. Moments later the rest of the Legion is discovered slaughtered and the Picts arrive taking claim to the massacre of the Roman Army, and they are also ready to do the same to these two time-travellers. The Doctor however is more than aware that the massive force of the Roman Empire didn’t succumb to the might of twelve (or so) Picts in a house of sticks.
Another isolated story this week from Doctor Who and it’s a “Monster of the Week” episode. Though it has some nice moments that raise a smile, such as Bill’s discovery that the TARDIS helps translate and understand all languages – “Oh my god it even does lipsync!” – and Nardole embracing the locals within a matter of days, compared to the other episodes we’ve seen in this series, this just doesn’t hit the bar set. Which I’ll be honest is a shame, for Rona Munro is a link to Classic Who and I had built myself up a wee bit here, expecting something splendid following last week’s Empress of the Mars also being of a Classic calibre.
Things just seemed to be a bit forced too; we’re at Episode 10 – with only two more to go – and regular viewers know of Bill’s sexual preferences, but again the script calls for her to explain that fancying men really isn’t her bag. Then we have the Doctor doing something (though I can’t say what due to spoilers) which feels so forced into the story, you are left rolling your eyes at it. If his actions had been to push the room forward, to show their courage, I’d understand but it really wasn’t.
As said above, this hasn’t been the best episode in Series 10 and that’s a bit of a shame to be honest.